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Going to the Bathroom Outside the Litter Box    

Dr. Al Townshend

Pet Guardians are committed to the health and happiness of their cherished canine and feline companions. Bathroom protocol for most dogs generally requires regular trips outside to do their business. Cats are mostly inside and require an appealing litter box that encourages them to perform their natural scratching and dancing to get in the right position.

As all feline Guardians are aware, cats are very particular or finicky about almost everything. What they eat, where they sleep, and they are as fussy about their litter box. Preventing issues begins with making the right choices.

About 10% of cats, for some reason, stop using the litter box or are reluctant to use it regularly. Solving the problem quickly is essential for the home and the Guardian. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a mess outside the litterbox in locations that are far more difficult to clean.


Why is the Cat Going Outside the Litter Box?

  • Not cleaning the litter box
  • A change in litter that has a less appealing texture or scent
  • Too few litter boxes for the number of cats in the home
  • Boxes in the wrong location
  • Introducing the wrong style litter box

Initially, making the best choices through trial and error and frequent cleaning can prevent most issues that result in going to the bathroom outside the litter box.


Other Reasons That May Result in the Cat Going Outside the Litter Box

Health Issues

Health issues can cause inappropriate bathroom issues. Some examples include:

  • Feline urinary issues such as Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease can cause a cat to have to urinate frequently when ever and where ever the urge strikes.
  • Digestive issues such as diarrhea can frequent bowel movements in abnormal locations.
  • Diabetes increases water intake and urination.
  • Severe arthritis in older cats can make it difficult to get up and go to the litter box. High sides on the litter box can also make it a challenge for arthritic cats.
  • Poor cognitive function (dementia) in older cats can diminish there urge to stay clean and use the litter box. 
  • Cancer can affect the use of the litter box. It is a chronic disease that saps the strength and loose the desire to use the litter box. 


Changes in the Household Routine

  • Changes in the household routine can result in anxiety, apprehension, and insecurity resulting in a change in bathroom habits.
    • Family emotional stress
    • Loud noises
    • Times when less attention is spent bonding with pets can alter bathroom habits.
  • A new pet entering the home can alter litter box use.


Competition for Dominance

  • Competition for dominance at the litter box can discourage normal use of the litter box. Conflicts between family cats.
    • Inappropriate bathroom behavior may result from one cat being harassed and threatened while in the box by another cat. The cat becomes afraid to go to the litter box if it is vulnerable to attack or harassment. Some cats simply will not use a box in which another cat has gone to the bathroom.



  • Marking Territory: Urine spraying, including evidence of vertical urine marks around doorways, walls, windows, or objects in the house.
    • Seeing a strange animal outside the home can stimulate the urge to let the animal knows this is their territory.
  • Cleaning the litter box too frequently: Confident, secure cats need to know they own their territory. A huge part of this is the scent. Sanitizing a litter box every week threatens your cat’s sense of security in their environment.


When the Problem Occurs, it is Essential to Determine the Cause and Make the Appropriate Corrections

  • Suspected medical issues should be quickly addressed by the veterinarian. They have the tools and expert knowledge to diagnose and offer the best solutions.
  • Always stay positive. Seeing a pile of poop on the rug or a yellow stain on the bed can create very negative emotions that can further exasperate the situation. Most cats will not respond well to harsh punishment, often making the situation worse.
  • Erase accidents completely. Thoroughly clean the area so the cat doesn’t catch the scent and think it’s okay to go there again. Check out a variety of enzymatic cleaners and other tools to help remove odors and stains we have available in-store. 
  • Put up obstacles to discourage using a location:
    • Move a chair or box over the area.
    • Lay down aluminum foil.
    • Spray the area with a cat-safe deterrent.
  • Proper nutrition that encourages a regular, firm stool and adequate water intake are critical to constant and frequent use of the litter box.

Nothing sours the bond between a feline and Guardian more than going to the bathroom outside the litter box. While it doesn’t occur frequently, when it does, working quickly to understand what might be causing the change in behavior is essential to household harmony.

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